August 14, 2013 at 2:56 PM

Indian Market Feasts

Dine on the foods of the Pueblo people during Santa Fe's Indian Market

By Lynn Cline

Gourmet Girl

Lynn Cline is a former food editor and the author of two books – Romantic Days and Nights in Santa Fe and Literary Pilgrims: The Santa Fe and Taos Writers' Colonies, 1915-1950. She also loves to cook, when not dining out.

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Indian Market is upon us, one of Santa Fe's biggest events of the year. Native artists from around the country travel to Santa Fe to showcase their jewelry, pottery, weaving, basketry and more. In addition to the market that takes over the Plaza this Saturday and Sunday, featuring hundreds of artists, galleries throw open their doors to showcase new work by acclaimed native artists and parties across town celebrate both traditional and contemporary native art.

Food plays a big role in Indian Market, too. On the Plaza, you can buy roasted corn, Navajo tacos, fry bread, roast mutton, Indian burgers, fry bread pizza, watermelon juice and more. These dishes incorporate some of the ingredients used by the ancient Pueblo people, excellent farmers whose cuisine featured three basic staples—corn, beans and squash, known as the Three Sisters because they grew well when planted together. The combination of corn and beans provided most essential enzymes and amino acids required for a healthy diet, so the Puebloans raised dozens of varieties of corn, including blue corn, which may have more nutritional value than other types of corn.

The early Puebloans also cooked with  cholla buds, prickly pear, chokecherries, ricegrass, amaranth, wild rice and pinons. They grew chile, pumpkins and melons, introduced thousands of years ago from South America, drying the melon in long, spiral strips that could be eaten throughout winter. And they collected wild greens,  fruits , seeds and wild berries and consumed clams, frogs and snails.

The early Pueblo people also fished trout from mountain rivers and hunted turkey, deer, elk, antelope, bighorn sheep, quail and rabbit, using the meat in soups, stews and puddings or served atop corn tortillas, often blue corn.  Whenever they hunted these animals, they made prayers and offerings, thanking the creatures for sacrificing themselves so that they could be fed. When the Spanish arrived in the region in the 16th century, they brought their horno, a mud oven that the Pueblo people placed outside their homes for baking bread with the wheat they grew.

Today, many of these ingredients are now part of Southwest cuisine, served in traditional dishes as well as modern versions. You can sample some the foods of the ancient Pueblo people during this Indian Market week in Santa Fe, as a few chefs offer special Indian Market events.

At  Louis Moskow's 315 Restaurant & Wine Bar, an Indian Market dinner served  August 16 and 17 from 5 to 9:30 features local squash blossom beignets with goat cheese fondue and tomato coulis; cornmeal-crusted ruby trout with smoked onion coulis, red quinoa and succotash, grilled buffalo strip with porcini mushroom sauce; corn pudding and summer squash cakes; and blackberry crisp with maple squash ice cream. Diners can enjoy live music on the patio,weather permitting  Reservations are recommended. For more info, click here.

The Santa Fe Culinary Academy hosts a Pop-Up Dinner: Native Bistro on August 17 at 6:30 p.m..  The menu blends ancient, indigenous ingredients with modern techniques and includes stuffed squash blossom tostadas, summer squash goat cheese souffle, elk sliders and chocolate tamales. The Pueblo of Pojaque Farm provides fresh local produce and each course is paired with local wines. Click here for details.

The Santa Fe School of Cooking offers a unique cooking class with Lois Ellen Frank,  acclaimed chef, native foods historian, author, photographer and winner of a James Beard Award in the Americana category for “Foods of the Southwest Indian Nations,”  the first Native American book to win a Beard award.

Frank is from the Kiowa Nation on her mother's side and Sephardic on her father's. She has devoted more than two decades to documenting the foods and lifeways of Southwest Native American tribes, and she is the founder of Red Mesa Cuisine—a Native American catering and food company based in Santa Fe.

Frank will draw on ancient techniques and ingredients with a modern twist to prepare clay-baked trout with herbs and bacon, sauteed rainbow chard, berry crisp and other contemporary Native American foods during a demo class on August 17 at 10 a.m. at  the Santa Fe School of Cooking. Click here for more info.

Photo: Don Graham

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